How Do I Know If a Debt Collector Is Genuine?You’ve been warned so many times about telephone scams that you no longer believe anyone who calls claiming to have legitimate business with you. But at the back of your mind, you always worry that maybe you’re getting yourself into deeper trouble by not believing these callers. What can you do? When it comes to debt collectors, there are ways to figure out if the call is legit or not.

Take Control of the Conversation

The M.O. of a scammer is to bully you into giving them what they want. You can stop them in their tracks by taking control of the conversation and demanding certain details. If they tell you that you owe the Acme Debt Collection Agency X amount of money, ask the caller for his name and the address and telephone number of his employer. He may hang up right there, realizing you’re not worth the trouble. If he doesn’t hang up, demand to know what the debt is from. If he refuses, or claims that the information was already sent to you, now is a good time for you to hang up— it is probably a scam.

Demand Confirmation

If the collector is beginning to sound real, there is still a chance the debt is not yours. You are entitled by federal law to written confirmation of the debt within five days of the phone call. Most legitimate collectors mail the letter first then follow up with a phone call, but they don’t have to. Ask the caller to send you written confirmation of the debt and make no further comments. When (or if) you get the letter, it should provide details about the debt, the debt collection agency, and your legal rights. If it turns out to be just a demand for payment, it’s probably a scam.

Loose Lips Sink Ships

This may be a World War II slogan, but it also applies to your credit. How? Well, if a scammer randomly calls you (this is knowns as “phishing”), hoping to get a live one on the line who is willing to sign over his first born to erase a debt, your best bet is to plead the 5th. Not literally—you’re not facing arrest, after all—but do not answer any of his questions about your account numbers, address, or even your name. If he is legitimate, he should already have this information. Go back to our first tip above and turn the tables on the conversation.

Even If it’s Legit, it Could Still Be Harassment

If it turns out the caller is real, you still have a right to be treated respectfully. Record the conversation if possible or, at the very least, write down the date and time of the call. If you continue to get calls after you have asked them to stop, or you get calls at odd hours, you may have a claim for debt collection harassment

Contact me online or call me directly at 855.982.2400. I will share tips on how to ensure the debt collection companies follow the law, and, if they don't comply, may even be able to get you compensation. 


Michael F. Cardoza, Esq.
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U.S. Marine & Consumer Financial Protection Attorney helping victims of ID theft and Credit Reporting errors.
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